It’s not often you’ll find a beautiful part of the National Park Service only 15 miles from a major East Coast city.
Well, welcome to Great Falls Park.
Great Falls Park, in McLean, Virginia is only 15 miles from the nation’s capital in Washington, DC. It’s the perfect day trip from Washington and the surrounding areas, both for locals and people visiting the region.
In this post, we’re going to cover what you need to know about Great Falls Park, Virginia.
Great Falls Park is easily accessible from a number of states in the Mid-Atlantic Region. It’s less than an hour from Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis. And, it’s approximately 2 hours from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Richmond, Virginia.
Things to do at Great Falls Park
Because Great Falls Park is situated right on the Potomac River, there are all sorts of fun activities to enjoy while you’re there.
See the Waterfalls
The name says it all. One of the biggest attractions of Great Falls Park are the waterfalls that you’ll find along the river. There is three waterfall overlooks in the park providing you with different views of the falls and types of accessibility.
One fun thing to do from the top of the falls is to wave to the people on the other side, who happen to be in Maryland while you’re in Virginia!
Explore the Hiking Trails
There are 15 miles of wonderful hiking trails inside the park. You can grab a trail map at the visitors center to pick the routes you want to explore.
Some of the more popular routes run right along the cliffs by the river.
The Great Falls River Trail is a favorite. At 1.5 miles long one way, it’s a relatively easy trail that has a number of scenic outcrops overlooking the Mather Gorge.
The North River Trail is another 1.5-mile long trail but is considered one of the easiest in the parks. It’s mostly flat and follows along the old canal routes.
You can witness the gorge as you hike the trails, or you can check it out up close and personal. Follow the Patowmack Canal Trail to have spectacular views of the gorge, which was named for the first Director of the National Park Service.
Learn History at the Visitors Center
Even though Great Falls Park is relatively small, it has a lively and active visitor’s center. Start with the 10-minute video presentation that shows the history of the park and the region. If you’ve got your kids with you, bring them to the small children’s center or chat with the friendly rangers who are happy to answer questions.
Hours and Information
The park is open daily, except for Christmas Day, from 7 am until 30 minutes after sunset. There is a visitor’s center on site that is open from 7 am to 4 pm daily, and there’s also a snack bar open Wednesday through Sunday from March to October with water and other small supplies.
To enter the park, it costs $10 per car or $5 for individual people on foot, horse, or bicycle. Leashed pets are welcome at Great Falls Park, so feel free to bring Fido! If you’re coming from out of town, be sure to check out our sister site, HotelCoupons.com for the best hotel reservations in the area.